The Vancouver Opening Ceremonies: A Celebration of the White Canadian Identity

The Olympic Ceremony is an event which extends the opportunity for a country to represent themselves and present their national identity to the world. This can be done in a number of ways, but when it is done, it is obvious and is often critiqued. Nathan Kalman-Lamb’s article, “‘A Portrait of This Country’: Whiteness, Indigeneity, Multiculturalism and the Vancouver Opening Ceremonies” was written in 2012 and was published in TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies. Kalman-Lamb examines the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and describes what he observed as a reflection of “whiteness at the core of Canada’s multicultural identity” (Kalman-Lamb 5). He argues that the ceremony celebrated white cultures in Canada, and gave the impression that Indigenous peoples are “part of a past that no longer exists” (15). Moreover, Kalman-Lamb admits that there was acknowledgement of Indigenous peoples in the ceremonies, but highlights the disparity between appropriation and appreciation. Ultimately, Kalman-Lamb explains that the ceremonies were a “performance of white pride and hegemony” (24).white Canadian man drinking beer

Kalman-Lamb begins his article by explaining that hosting the Olympic games is “an opportunity…to enact [one’s] national identity” (6). He then critiques the ceremonies, recounting the means by which multiculturalism was highlighted. He explains that “rather than the broad spectrum of cultures that compose the Canadian nation,” there are “repeated representations of Indigenous culture” (7). However, while moving through the piece, it becomes clear that these representations are not repeated, but instead displayed exclusively at the beginning of the ceremony. The majority celebrates Canadian whiteness, and the need of a presence of Indigenous culture in the ceremony is basically checked off. Including Indigenous culture at only the beginning of the ceremony manifests modern Canada as “profoundly white” (17). While the opening ceremonies begin with performances of Indigenous identity, they end with displays of whiteness and thus “function as a” (23). The Vancouver 2010 Olympic ceremonies transform from an enactment of Canadian national identity into a “performance of white pride and hegemony” (24).

USA men looking bored in Canada

Kalman-Lamb effectively explains the faults of Canadian multiculturalism and how they were reflected in their Olympic ceremonies. However, a question arises of whether Canada intentionally proclaimed their whiteness, or if it was asserted inadvertently. Regardless of the answer to this question, Canada is at fault for merely displaying and not celebrating a culture, a fundamental aspect of multiculturalism. Canadian multiculturalism should serve to “attempt to produce equity and social justice by foregrounding and celebrating the ethnic diversity of Canadian society,” but in the context of the 2010 Olympic ceremonies, it “stand[s] in as a code word for imagined racial differences” (9).


Works Cited

Kalman-Lamb, Nathan. “‘A Portrait of This Country’: Whiteness, Indigeneity, Multiculturalism and the Vancouver Opening Ceremonies.” TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies, no. 27, 2012, pp. 5-27,                      Accessed 7 March 2018.

One thought on “The Vancouver Opening Ceremonies: A Celebration of the White Canadian Identity

  1. I thought your post was really interesting!
    I agree with the points you talked about in your post and mentioned similar topics in my post. My response to your post stems mainly from the question that you pose at the end, “whether Canada intentionally proclaimed their whiteness, or if it was asserted inadvertently”.
    My first reaction to this question was that, obviously Canada did not intentionally proclaim their whiteness as they pride themselves on being a multicultural society. Kalman-Lamb backs up the idea that this unintentional white proclamation is fostered in a multicultural society because a multicultural society “serves to blanket and conceal the histories of power and violence that have produced the multicultural state,” not because of current leaders goal to be racist or supreme ct (12). But after reading more into this question and trying to imagine how some of what Kalman-Lamb wrote could support the opposite answer to the question this question became more interesting and lost creepy. Kalman-Lamb seems to believe that Canadian inevitably portray their witness, it is not their goal to put down other culture it just happens out of fear. Of course after contemplating your question I cannot help but think that maybe there are some people in power who openly want to portray Canada’s witness. There are white supremacists and racists everywhere but I would hope that none of these people are involved in such an important and powerful organization such as the Olympics.

    My question to you is, how would one openly proclaim their want for the supremacy of white people without being categorized as racist? It is almost ironic but, what are subtle ways to openly ask for the persistence of whiteness without being categorized as racist? Do people do this?

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